Dave-Te' Thomas, the NFL's head scout, called Casey Hayward the "most underrated" cornerback in the draft.
One of the most fearless hitters in the collegiate game, Hayward has recorded 31 touchdown-saving tackles after opponents broke free from other Commodores defenders, thinking that they had great opportunities to score. Eighteen of those touchdown-saving tackles came in run force, as the first cornerback to ever lead the team in tackles for losses (8.5 in 2009) registered 113 stops vs. the ground game, limiting those ball-carriers to just 332 yards (2.94 ypc), despite playing in the secondary. Ten of those runners were stopped at the line of scrimmage for no gain and he killed 14 scoring drives with third-down tackles.
Where Hayward excels is in keeping his opponents from the ball vs. the aerial game. He has had 242 passes targeted into his area, allowing only 71 receptions (29.34 pass completion percentage) for 498 yards and just two touchdowns, as those opponents averaged only 7.01 yards per completion and 2.06 yards per pass attempt. He rerouted and jammed his coverage assignments on 106 of those pass attempts (43.80 percent), as he posted 74 third-down hits and five more on fourth-down snaps.
Hayward shattered the school career record with 46 passes defended, tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead among active players and good for 11th on the major college all-time record chart. His 15 interceptions are tied with Leonard Coleman (1980-83) for the school career record. Proving his ability to keep the opposition out of the end zone, he delivered 37 of his tackles inside the red zone, with 12 coming on goal-line plays. He has also provided support for the Commodores' special teams, in addition to seeing brief action on offense as a senior.
Compares to: Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs — Few cornerbacks show the feel for the ball in flight like Hayward displays, especially during his senior year. He looks natural fielding the ball and does a nice job of tracking the pigskin in flight (see 2011 Connecticut, South Carolina, Arkansas and Cincinnati games). He has good timing trying to leap and attack the ball in flight, showing excellent elevation to reach the pass at its highest point. He does not allow much cushion, but when he does, he is alert to blocking schemes and is quick to close, especially vs. plays in front of him. He has good breakdown ability playing in space and plays the ball with good relationship on the receiver. What you can see on game film is his outstanding ability to break on the ball vs. plays in front of him, especially in run support. With his foot quickness, he shows consistency stepping in front of the receiver to make the pick or deflect the pass.
Hayward appeared in 50 games for the Commodores, starting his last 37 contests, as he recorded 199 tackles (146 solos) with 18.0 stops for losses of 35 yards, a quarterback pressure and a forced fumble…Defended 46 passes, deflecting 31 tosses while coming up with fifteen interceptions for 126 yards in returns (8.40 avg) and one touchdown…Saw brief action on offense as a senior, gaining 60 yards on five carries (12.0 ypc)…Added 11 yards via a kickoff return and 12 yards on a punt return…Hayward's fifteen interceptions rank second among active players in the NCAA football Bowl Subdivision ranks, topped by only Sean Baker of Ball State (18)…His fifteen pass thefts also tied Leonard Coleman (1980-83) for the school career-record and rank tied for 14th in Southeastern Conference annals (most by an SEC performer since Corey Webster of Louisiana State recorded 16 thefts, from 2001-04)…His 126 yards gained via interception returns placed seventh on the school all-time record list…Hayward's became the seventh player in school history to lead the team in interceptions twice in a career (2010-11), as his seven interceptions in 2011 tied Donald Gleisner (1952) and Ed Oaks (1975) for third on the Vanderbilt season-record list, topped by only Scott Wingfield (eight in 1973) and Leonard Coleman (eight in 1982)… His six interceptions in 2010 tied him with David Malone (1964) and D.J. Moore (in both 2007 and 2008) for sixth place on the Commodores' season-record chart…His five pass thefts in 2011 tied him with Donald Gleisner (1951), Russ Morris (1959), Neal Smith (1968), Christie Hauck (1969), Ken Stone (1971), Jay Chesley (1974), Manuel Young (1984), Chris Donnelly (1989) and Myron Lewis (2008) for tenth place on the school annual record list… His 46 passes defended topped the previous Vanderbilt career-record of 36 by Robert Davis (1990-93), and are tied with Josh Robinson of Central Florida (36 pass break-ups, ten interceptions) for the most among the Football Bowl Subdivision's active players, as that total also tied Christian Morton of Illinois (41 break-ups, five thefts; 2000-03) and Perrish Cox of Oklahoma State (36 break-ups, ten interceptions; 2006-09) for 11th place on the NCAA FBS career-record list…His seventeen passes defended in 2010 set the school season-record, surpassing the old mark of sixteen by Robert Davis in 1993, as the senior would match that record again in 2011…Hayward's six pass deflections vs. Arkansas in 2011 set a school game-record and was two shy of the NCAA game mark of eight pass break-ups by Joselio Hanson of Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State in 2002…His six pass deflections were the most by an SEC player in a game since Corey Webster of Louisiana State broke up five throws vs. Georgia in 2003…Hayward became the first defensive back to lead the team in tackles-for-loss in a season (8.5 in 2009), which are also the most by a Southeastern Conference in a season…The cornerback had 242 passes targeted by the opposition into his area, as 71 were completed (29.34%) for 498 yards and two touch-downs, an average of 7.01 yards per completion and 2.06 yards per pass attempt…Posted 74 third-down stops and five fourth-down hits while making nineteen touchdown-saving tackles and eight stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. the aerial game…Collected 113 hits vs. the rushing attack, limiting those ball carriers to 332 yards (2.94 ypc) and no touchdowns, coming up with eleven stops-for-loss, ten tackles at the line of scrimmage for no gain, and fourteen third-down hits…Made 37 tackles inside the red zone, including twelve on goal-line plays.
Hayward was named to The NFL Draft Report's All-American Super Sleeper Team, in addition to being selected All-Southeastern Conference first-team by that scouting information service… Earned All-American second-team honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation…Member of the Nagurski Award Watch List, an honor given annually to college football's top defensive player…Semi-finalist for Jim Thorpe Award honors, given to the nation's top defensive back…NFLDraftScout.com rated Hayward as the top "rising star" among 2012 NFL Draft-eligible cornerbacks…Also received All-SEC second-team accolades from the conference's coaches and media…The team captain started every game at strong-side cornerback, ranking third on the squad with 62 tackles (46 solos), as he placed fourth on the unit with 7.5 stops for losses totaling 11 yards, the most tackles behind the line of scrimmage for any cornerback in the conference and NCAA FBS ranks…Finished fifth in the nation and tied Georgia's Bacarri Rambo for the SEC title with seven interceptions for 107 yards in returns (15.29 avg) that included a 50-yard touchdown runback…Deflected ten other tosses, as his total of seventeen passes defended (1.31 pg) led the SEC and ranked 13th nationally…Ranks second in the nation among active players with fifteen career interceptions, tying Leonard Coleman (1980-83) for the Vanderbilt all-time record…The coaches also utilized Hayward's great athletic skills briefly on offense, as he carried five times for 60 yards (12.0 ypc)…In addition, he handled a 12-yard punt return and an 11-yard kickoff return…Had 82 passes targeted into his area, as he saw his opponents complete just sixteen throws (19.51%) for 114 yards, an average of 7.13 yards per pass completion, leading the nation by allowing just 1.39 yards per pass attempt…The senior rerouted/jammed receivers on 42 incomplete passes (51.22%), as four of his pass thefts were converted into scoring drives (three touchdowns, one field goal) by the Commodores…Made 45 plays vs. the ground game, limiting those ball carriers to only 106 yards (2.36 ypc), as he tallied four third-down hits with nine tackles inside the red zone, including three on goal-line snaps, in addition to posting nine total stops-for-loss (assists and solos), along with taking down four running backs at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
2011 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Hayward got to see duty on both sides of the ball in a 45-14 victory over Elon College in the season opener, as he returned an interception 22 yards, posted six tackles (4 solos) with a stop for a 2-yard loss and had one rushing attempt…For the second-straight game, Hayward's interception led to a Vanderbilt score, as he also posted four solo tackles with a stop for a 2-yard loss in a 24-21 win over Connecticut…Hayward was limited to just a pair of tackles and a pass deflection in a 30-7 win, but one of his stops forced Mississippi to punt, when he chased down Randall Mackey on a third-&-12 carry that netted 9 yards…Led a strong defensive effort vs. South Carolina, coming up with two of the team's four interceptions, giving the Vanderbilt unit fourteen interceptions through the first four games on the 2011 schedule, as he also made three tackles and broke up a pass. In what looked like a classic "Davey vs. Goliath" battle, the 5:11, 188 cornerback consistently frustrated 6:04, 230 Alshon Jeffery, as the player regarded as one of the elite draft prospects eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft was shut out from getting to any passes in one-on-one confrontations with Hayward during the game…Alabama completed 26 passes in handing Vanderbilt a 34-0 loss, but just two of four balls targeted into Hayward's area made it to a receiver's hands, as the senior posted four solo tackles, including one on a third-&-7 screen pass that saw Hayward captured tailback Trent Richardson behind the line of scrimmage for a loss, forcing the Alabama punt unit on to the field…Recorded his 13th interception for the team, adding seven tackles (3 solos) that included a stop behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a 12-yard punt return and ran for a 29-yard gain vs. Georgia…Hayward nearly picked off three of the six passes he broke up, as he also dropped one he might have returned for a touchdown in the first half, adding four tackles (2 solos) in a heart-breaking 31-28 loss vs. Arkansas…Needing help inside the box, the Commodores turned to their senior cornerback, and Hayward, regarded as one of the best run stuffers in college at his position, delivered three tackles behind the line of scrimmage among his four solo stops vs. Florida…In a 38-8 triumph over Kentucky, Hayward would begin a string of three consecutive games where he recorded six tackles (5 solos) in each contest to close out the regular season…Spent most of his day trying to shut down the Tennessee Vols' running game, as he produced six tackles (5 solos)…Closed out the regular season with a six-tackle performance, as he forced Wake Forest to punt midway through the first quarter when he jammed flanker Michael Campanaro on a third-&-10 pass attempt…Led a stellar secondary performance, picking off a pair of passes as the nation's 11th-ranked unit vs. the pass (pass efficiency defense rating of 110.76) held the Bearcats' aerial attack to 80 yards in a tough 31-24 loss to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. In addition to his two interceptions, the senior captain posted eight tackles (6 solos) with a stop behind the line of scrimmage and a pass deflection, coming up with two touchdown-saving hits while rerouting receivers away from four other tosses.
All-American honorable mention and All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice by The NFL Draft Report, adding second-team All-SEC honors from the league's coaches and the Associated Press…Started all twelve games, ranking fourth on the team with 71 tackles (57 solos) that included two stops for losses of three yards…Caused one fumble… Led the league and ranked third in the nation with a school season-record seventeen passes defended that included eleven break-ups, topping the previous annual mark of sixteen defended passes by Robert Davis in 1993…His six interceptions for 13 yards in returns ranked second in the conference and tied for sixth nationally…Those six thefts tied David Malone (1964) and D.J. Moore (in both 2007 and 2008) for fifth place on the Commodores' season-record chart…The team ranked 94th in the nation in scoring defense (31.17 ppg), but it could have been much worse, as Hayward led the SEC by delivering twelve touchdown-saving tackles on plays outside his area (eight on carries totaling 210 yards; four on receptions that netted 112 yards)…Had 87 passes targeted into his area, allowing only 31 completions (35.63%) for 230 yards, one touchdown and eleven first downs, an average of 7.42 yards per completion and 2.64 yards per pass attempt…Made 28 third-down stops and rerouted/jammed receivers on 33 throws (37.93%) vs. the aerial game…In man coverage, his main assignments caught just fourteen passes for 106 yards (7.57 ypc) and a 15-yard touchdown…Posted 33 plays vs. the running attack that netted 131 yards (3.97 ypc), but only three first downs, coming up with seven third-down hits while stopping three runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain and two more for losses…Collected seventeen of his tackles inside the red zone, with five coming on goal-line plays…The junior delivered three tackles (2 solos) with a pass break-up, in addition to coming up with his first interception of the season and third of his career with 7:50 to play in the third quarter vs. Louisiana State. It was his first interception since the Georgia game in 2009…Broke up a pass, intercepted another and posted eight tackles (5 solos) vs. Mississippi…Continued to make big plays in the secondary, posting his third interception for the 2010 schedule vs. Connecticut, as he deflected another toss, caused a fumble and was in on five solo tackles…In the Eastern Michigan clash, he made five solo tackles, including one for a loss, as he intercepted a pass for the fourth consecutive game…Set a season-high with nine tackles, a figure he would match in each of his next two games. He also broke up a pass vs. the Bulldogs. In a classic battle with All-American receiver A.J. Green, Hayward rerouted the Bulldog away from three pass attempts and batted another out of the wide-out's hands, as Green could only manage 16 yards on two catches vs. the cornerback…Produced his fifth interception for 2010, as he broke up another pass and delivered nine tackles (7 solos) vs. South Carolina…For the third consecutive game, Hayward paced the defense with nine tackles (5 solos), as he also deflected two passes vs. Arkansas…Made his sixth interception of the season when he picked off a Tyler Bray pass on the Commodores 5-yard line and took it back 13 yards late in the second quarter, as he also broke up two other tosses and registered five tackles (4 solos) with a stop for a loss vs. Tennessee…Recorded eight solo tackles, including a touchdown-saving stop when he captured QB Tanner Price on a 14-yard bootleg early in the first frame vs. Wake Forest.
The recipient of the team's Most Valuable Defensive Back Award, Hayward started ten games at strong-side cornerback and the Georgia Tech and Florida contests at free safety, despite being limited in early season action while battling migraine headaches, missing the second half of the Mississippi State clash…Ranked fifth on the team with 58 tackles (40 solos)…Became the first Commodore cornerback to lead the team in tackles-for-loss, posting 8.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for minus 21 yards while also producing one quarterback pressure…Intercepted two passes and deflected seven others…Helped the Commodores rank ninth in the nation in pass defense (164.92 ypg), as he recorded six touchdown-saving tackles (three on receptions that netted 109 yards and three more on rushing attempts that gained 65 yards)…Had 63 passes thrown into his area, with the opposition completing 22 tosses (34.92%) for 139 yards, seven first downs and no touch-downs, as he rerouted/jammed receivers on 27 incomplete throws (42.86%) and made 19 third-down stops, with one more on a fourth-down snap vs. the aerial game…In one-on-one coverage assignments, he held those receivers to ten catches for 83 yards…Produced 34 plays vs. the running attack, holding those ball carriers to 86 yards (2.53 ypc), as two of his hits came on third-down plays…Delivered eight tackles inside the red zone, including three on goal-line plays.
Hayward appeared in all thirteen games as a true freshman, competing as a reserve nickel back, in addition to competing for the kickoff and punt coverage squads…Recorded eight tackles (3 solos) with three pass deflections, registering three hits for the kickoff coverage unit and another tackle while causing a fumble with the punt coverage team…Joined safety Sean Richardson and receiver John Cole as the only true freshman to see action with the Commodores…Made ten plays vs. the aerial game, allowing just two receptions for 15 yards, as his first career stop was a touchdown-saving tackle vs. Miami (Oh.)…Also rerouted/jammed receivers away from four pass attempts, registering one third-down stop and another on fourth down vs. the opposition's passers.
2009 Season…Bothered early in the year by migraine headaches, eventually sitting out the second half of the Mississippi State clash (9/19) while playing with the migraines through-out the Rice contest (9/26).
4.47 in the 40-yard dash (hand-held)…4.53 in the 40-yard dash (electronic)…1.58 10-yard dash…2.57 20-yard dash…3.90 20-yard shuttle…11.10 60-yard shuttle…6.76 three-cone drill…34-inch vertical jump…9'11" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times… 460-pound squat…30 ¼-inch arm length…9-inch hands…73 ¼-inch wingspan…16 Wonderlic score.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.